By MATTHEW STEVENS
Sundays are made for kicking back, relaxing and enjoying your surroundings.
Thatâ€™s exactly what the Mississippi State basketball team did in its 74-58 win over North Carolina A&T in front of 2,119 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (5-2) used effective outside shooting and a career day from senior guard Riley Benock as the team captain recorded 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five three-pointers in 34 minutes of action.
â€śIt was just one of those games we knew we had to step up and get a win so I was trying to be aggressive from the start,â€ť Benock said. â€śItâ€™s always good to relax and enjoy a win while we play a lot of guys.â€ť
Over the last two contests, Benock had not been looking for his shot and totaled just seven points on 3-of-8 from the field. The Battletown, Ky., native even banked in a 37-footer in the second half with the shot clock winding down.
â€śCoach came to me tonight and told me if I had anything (open) to shoot,â€ť Benock said. â€śEarly they got mixed up on some switches and got some easy looks early.â€ť
In a less than 24 hour turnaround off a disappointing 63-62 loss to East Tennessee State where common sense would say they wouldâ€™ve have their legs, the Bulldogs defensive effort was high allowing the Aggies (5-4) to connect on just 8-of-31 shots from the field and kept A&Tâ€™s big man Thomas Coleman around his season averages (14 points and 12 rebounds) to cruise to victory.
â€śI think the biggest thing I was pleased about besides getting the win was I thought we had a decent response to (Saturday) night,â€ť Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said. â€śWe could have very easily not had our sharpness mentally and let these guys hang around but we didnâ€™t.â€ť
North Carolina A&T, who had been on a four-game winning streak entering the Magnolia State, led 43 seconds into the game and that would be the last time theyâ€™d have the advantage all afternoon long.
Senior guard Ravern Johnson led the MSU scoring effort again with a game-high 17 points and the 6-foot-7 wing player did most of his damage during a 21-3 run to the end the first half and send the Bulldogs up by its largest 20-minute margin of the 2010-11 season.
â€śWe were contesting their shot (and) they got great shots,â€ť North Carolina A&T head coach Jerry Eaves said. â€śThey definitely earned the win so hats off them and hopefully theyâ€™ll get all of their players back to have a good year.â€ť
In a scary moment in the middle of the second half, Stateâ€™s second-leading scorer Kodi Augustus appeared to injured himself as he dove into the first row of seats. The senior forward laid on his back until there was a stoppage of play but popped up immediately once MSU trainer Scotty Johnson got over to him.
After not scoring in the last five games, Shaun Smith scored a career-high six points in 14 minutes of playing time as the former Noxubee County star is trying to play his way through a chronic hip injury.
â€śFor the first time all year, I got to play the bench a little bit through mistakes,â€ť Stansbury said. â€śThatâ€™s what those guys need and back to our exhibition game, this was the first game that wasnâ€™t a nail biter.â€ť
Mississippi State will begin day three of this five-game in five-day stretch as Nicholls State comes to Starkville tonight for 7 p.m. tip-off.